When it comes to flying with kids, you want to know you’re going to be as comfortable as possible with the airline you choose… especially if that trip happens to be long haul! We become frequent flyers to North America over the past 18 months, and have had the chance to do this trip with 3 different airline carriers now and are pleased to say, every single one of them provided a great flight experience, including our latest – read on for our Air New Zealand review.
For this trip we flew from Brisbane to Houston with Air New Zealand, via Auckland. Our final destination was Nashville, which was a codeshare flight with United Airlines from Houston. It was a crazy long journey and our first time flying with Air New Zealand.
FLYING WITH KIDS AIR NEW ZEALAND REVIEW
Air New Zealand commenced in its current form in 1951, starting with flights in the Asia Pacific region before branching further into international waters as the fleet grew. They became full members of the Star Alliance Group in 1999, and over this time have developed strong partnerships with other airlines.
The airline announced long haul flight services in 2004 and have continued to expand their reach and services since this time, bringing enhanced flight comforts and modern technology along with it.
They also offer the flexible seats to suit options to passengers which gives them the opportunity to choose just their seat or to add on option extras with baggage and meal too. This allows them to offer competitive low priced flight options to passengers.
Our Experience with Air New Zealand
The reason we booked with Air New Zealand on this occasion is because they were significantly cheaper than the other carriers at the time, with a USA flight sale, so we figured the extra couple of hours via Auckland each day would be worth it, since the stopover times were quite short.
I did some research and discovered Air New Zealand had been awarded the World’s Best Airline award from Airline Ratings for 5 years running and overall the reviews had been positive so we locked it in! You can check out all their past awards on their website. This had me pretty excited to fly with them actually!
Unfortunately a couple of days out from our trip, we found out several of our flights had changed times and were much later, leaving us with a huge layover in Auckland, so we had our Brisbane connection pushed back a few hours to minimise this wait. Instead we ended up in Houston an extra few hours, getting in about 3 hours later than anticipated due to delays. Urghhhh… hello 1 AM arrival!
Check in with Air New Zealand was quick and easy. There was no line up at Brisbane airport and there was an attendant there to assist us. She was friendly and chatty with our kids. She assisted us through the self check in process and luggage drop process and confirmed our seats were together for each of the Air New Zealand flights on our journey.
Quick, simple and open early so we didn’t have to sit around waiting for our gate to open for check in. This drives me insane when you are told to be at the airport 3 hours ahead but can’t check in for at least an hour after arrival! No such issue with Air New Zealand on this day. This was around 9:45 AM on a Tuesday morning so possibly a quiet time for the airport too.
Our flight boarded on time and they called for premium and first class passengers first, followed by families flying with babies and children to board next. This is pretty standard with most airlines, although honestly we often try to board later on to minimise the amount of time we spend on board with kids, since it doesn’t take too long before they get restless on long haul flights!
The boarding process was quick and orderly, greeted by friendly staff the whole way.
As we boarded our Air New Zealand plane, we got to check out the first class and premium economy passenger areas with the usual envy. They were roomy and modern… and exactly where we wish we were headed. But nope… it was all the way to economy we went.
Our first thoughts were definitely how modern the plane and facilities appeared. Everything was clean and seemed quite new and updated. Excellent!
We stowed our bagged in the overhead area and took our seats, getting as comfy as we could before take off. One great thing is that the seats do seem a little bit more roomy on most of the Air New Zealand flights compared to some other long haul airlines we have recently flown with. Woohoo! The difference is likely minimal, but when you are tall, like my husband, this is a HUGE thing!
Each seat had a blanket, pillow and earphones waiting for them, which is standard for most airlines. The blankets were fine. Not as cosy as the new woolen ones Qantas has, but they did their job. They could have been a little longer, so make sure you pack some warm socks and a jacket in case you get a bit chilly.
One cool thing they had on our flight home was a foot rest so you could actually put your feet up and your seat back and it felt like you were in a recliner. This is awesome for economy class and sure did make sleep easier when your legs were elevated. I wish this was on all 4 of our Air New Zealand flights!
The Air New Zealand onboard entertainment system has all the usual offerings. New release movies, older classics, TV shows, documentaries, and kids shows.
It also has a huge range of music to suit all tastes… well most tastes. I am a bit of a heavy metal fan and there wasn’t really much heavy stuff on there. That’s fine though… I don’t really listen to music on flights.
You can activate the children safe mode on the entertainment system for your kids so they can choose from kids only tv and movie choices on their personal entertainment system. This is a great reassurance they don’t end up watching something they shouldn’t.
There are lots of games to choose from too and some of these you can play against onboard friends too which is a bit of fun. Plus if you have friends sitting in different areas of the plane, they have a seat chat option and you can message each other without having to get up. Fantastic idea!
On select flights, onboard wifi is available for use. Every passenger gets 10 free minutes during the flight and you have the option to pay for the full flight time also in case you want to stay connected while you’re in the air. This is great if you are travelling for work and want to get some extra work done on your way. You simply find the network on your device like you normally would and connect.
All kids over 2 are given a kids entertainment pack on board to help keep them entertained too. This is included with their ticket and always a hit with the little ones!
Food and Meal Service
Meals were served fairly soon after take off on our flights, which was great timing as it was close to lunch time when we got into the air. For the short haul flights within New Zealand or to Australia, meals will depend on your ticket type. If you have not chosen a meal, and are only flying short haul, you won’t be given a meal, however if you are flying long haul, it will automatically be included. In saying that, I did not see them checking anyone’s ticket despite the announcement.
Meals were fairly standard airline food. It was nothing groundbreaking but it tasted fine. There was 2 choices for each main meal, although if you happen to be at the rear of the plane like we were for one of our legs, you may find your first choice is all out anyway. Lucky I’m not too picky with my mains!
There was lots of fresh fruit included and yoghurt. I am not a yoghurt person so I was a bit over seeing it by the end of our trip and so many flights.
Children over 2 are served their own kid-friendly meal, which is smaller and more suited to their preferences. Kids meals are served with a juice box and dessert too.
Aside from the regular meals and snacks provided on board, on the long haul flights after the main meal service is finished, they turn on the in seat menu which allows you to order drinks and snacks, as well as some personal amenities (eye mask, toothbrush etc) via your screen. This is the first airline I have seen to have a system set up like this and it is pretty cool.
The flight attendants deliver your request to your seat within a couple of minutes and it means no pressing the attendant button, having them come see what you want then go back to get it. Far more efficient use of their time and less waiting time for us.
The staff on Air New Zealand flights are very friendly in the way you expect from Kiwis! Plus they have adorable accents!
We had an issue on our return flight from Houston to Auckland where a section of seats in our economy cabin would not shut off the lights. They attempted resetting it multiple times and were so full of apologies. They did what they could to help us get comfortable, offering an eye mask and also a gift voucher for $30 off our next flight or to add to our Airpoints account as an apology. No one seemed to get cranky despite the inconvenience and I think it was very much due to the fact that they were so proactive about doing what they could in the situation and genuinely apologetic.
Funny enough, I had my best sleep on that flight with my eye mask… but that was also because we ended up with some spare seats to spread ourselves out in too. That’s always a big win on a long haul flight!
Okay, this needs to be mentioned first because it is kind of crazy! Air New Zealand flights… at least some of them… do not have window shades to lift up and down. Instead they have a dimmer built into the window and a button to press. I still don’t entirely understand how this technology works but it completely blocks out the sunlight when you are trying to sleep and leaves the window pitch black.
Plus that’s one less thing to worry about during take off and landing with opening windows. How totally funky! The funny thing is I’ve seen so many friends who have flown Air New Zealand since us post pictures or comment about these strange windows.
I thought I took a photo on board but I must have imagined that so this video gives you a brief look at the modern design of their new Dreamliner, which we must have travelled on to and from the USA. Pretty cool!
Air New Zealand have their own rewards program – Airports. Like other airline rewards programs, the points can be earned for flights and booking services with Air New Zealand and partners, and redeemed for flights and services.
Flying Air New Zealand With Kids
AIr New Zealand have all the usual services and onboard facilities to help make flying with babies and children more comfortable. Children are required to have their own seat if they are 2, however you can purchase a seat for them if they are younger also. Children 2 to 11 are charged 75% of the adult flight rate.
If you are travelling Air New Zealand with a baby and flying on a Boeing 777-200, 777-300, and 787-9 aircraft, you may be able to reserve a bassinet for use onboard. Air New Zealand bassinets have the following specifications as found on their website:
- Suitable for infants up to 8 months old and 11.8kg (26lb)
- They can be made up with sheets, a pillow and blankets
- 73.66cm (29in) long and 34.29cm (13.5in) wide
If you are eligible for a bassinet seat as per your child’s age, you can select one of the suitable seats when booking online and will be refunded the difference as these seats are typically in the bulkhead area and normally more expensive due to the extra leg room. Your travel agent can assist with this if booking through an agent, or you can do it online yourself. Check out the specifications for car seats via their website.
If you do not do this beforehand, ask at the airport and if there are any available they will often move your seat to suit. This may mean you won’t be seated together with the rest of the family potentially though.
Alternatively, you can also take forward facing or rear facing car seats on the plane with you for your child to sit in and flight attendants can assist you with getting this set up. These can not be used in business due to the lie flat seats.
And as mentioned earlier, kids will get entertainment packs and kid meals as part of their ticket, to help keep them happy during their flights.
Air New Zealand Review
Air New Zealand offers a lot of great facilities on their modern fleet of aircrafts to fly short or long haul. The staff are friendly and the planes are relatively comfortable for economy class with slightly more space and with some airplanes also having foot rests under the seat too for added comfort. A bit like a recliner chair!
Flying with kids was a positive experience with great services and facilities, onboard entertainment, and activity packs for kids, suitable children’s meals and snacks, plus friendly staff who make the flight easier through their attentiveness and cheerful personalities.
While we had the issue with our cabin light on the way home, it did not impact our experience drastically. The only real negative was the delays with our flight times on the way over. It meant we missed out on a couple of hours sightseeing by getting in much later in the night than originally anticipated. These things do happen though and we are not sure if this was the result of an Air New Zealand issue or United Airlines.
Also the fact that most flights are via Auckland instead of direct from Australia meant longer transit time. This is not an uncommon thing for international carriers though, as we have had a similar experience with airlines such as FinnAir stopping in Helsinki. It adds a little extra travel time but often means you pay a bit less too. This is an easy compromise if you are looking to keep costs down.
- Friendly staff and service
- Free onboard entertainment system
- Fancy digital window dimmers – yes this impressed me!
- Availability of several class type upgrades
- Kids activity packs and meals
- Some flights have foot rests in economy class
- Easy check in
- Number 1 airline worldwide for 5 years running with Airline Ratings website
- Airpoints rewards program
Having to fly with kids domestically or internationally can be tough so it sure does help when you have an airline that does what it can to ease some of that discomfort and Air New Zealand definitely does do this! Check out more of our airline reviews here.
If you happen to be heading to New Zealand, be sure to check out all our articles on this beautiful country in our New Zealand archives.
Ready to book your own Qantas flight? Check out the latest flight deals.